Toyota has failed to get a federal judge in Nevada to dismiss a copyright complaint from Eric Dahl, who wrote in his book B.B. King’s Lucille and the Loves Before Her, about finding and returning blues legend B.B.King’s cherished guitar. Dahl not only is an author, he is a guitar collector and frequent pawnshop patron, always on the lookout for unique instruments. When he found in a Gibson Lucille in Las Vegas shop with Prototype 1 written on it, he could not shake the feeling the ax belonged to King. Dahl met with King and returned the instrument, a gift for the bluesman’s 80th birthday that had been stolen. King sent Dahl home with an autographed guitar for himself.
It’s a touching and copyrighted story, which made its way into a Toyota commercial for the 2015 Camry. Toyota’s version had a few twists and turns. In its commercial, Toyota shows a young, attractive woman who finds the guitar in a storage unit and returns it to King. He is so elated, he presents her with a signed guitar for her troubles.
Dahl sued for infringement, saying the automaker had access to his story and took ideas from his first few book chapters without permission. Toyota argued to U.S. District Judge James Mahan in Las Vegas that it had presented a generic and common story line that could not be copyrighted. In a decision widely reported on, Mahan rejected the car maker’s motion to dismiss.